EXPIRED: 07/23/10 – Daniel Schorr, 93, used to describe himself as a living history book. And that he was.
A journalist who worked for nearly his whole life, Schorr started in the field before he was even a teenager. A local woman jumped from the roof of his apartment so he called the police, got the story and then called a newspaper in the Bronx and sold them the information for $5.
Not bad for a future Emmy Award winning journalist.
After serving stateside in Army Intelligence during World War II, Schorr joined CBS News as a stringer and then a reporter under Edward R. Murrow. Eventually he headed up the CBS bureau in Moscow, nailing an interview with Communist party chief Nikita Khrushchev. It became Schorr’s first TV interview airing on Face the Nation.
But such a ‘propaganda’-ish interview had its setbacks and Schorr was denied a visa to return to the USSR. So he turned his sights on conducting interviews that painted pictures of everyday life behind the Berlin Wall.
It sealed his career, and sometimes got him in hot water.
Due to some of his more left-wing views, Schorr ended up on President Nixon’s Enemies List. In a stunning bit of live TV – one that is still debated as to whether it was staged – Schorr read the list aloud on live TV, surprised to come across his own name while doing so. Schorr won Emmys for news reporting during this time.
Schorr got into more hot water when he got a hold of the Pike Committee report on illegal CIA and FBI activities. CBS wouldn’t air them so he handed them over to the Village Voice. They made the contents public and attributed them to Schorr. Called to testify before Congress, he refused to identify his source on 1st Amendment grounds, risking imprisonment. He ended up being forced to resign from CBS because of this and, starting in 1976, he became a free agent.
He tried teaching journalism at the University of California, Berkeley but found the students were interested in his celebrity, and not the craft of writing, so he became a writer again. The Des Moines Register & Tribune hired him, but the results were disappointing. Schorr needed to be behind a microphone.
Luckily, that was when he hooked up with Ted Turner who just started CNN. Schorr was the first on camera employee hired, reporting news, commentary and analysis. But he was opinionated and by contract allowed to veto stories and casting decisions. When Turner wanted to renege on that stipulation, Schorr balked. He was fired. It was 1985.
So he went to National Public Radio. As Senior News Analyst, Schorr talked about current events for All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. He banged out his stories every week on a typewriter, until last December, when he finally switched to a laptop and a Twitter account – all at the age of 93. There he stayed until his death with his last show just 2 weeks ago on July 10th.
Interestingly, Schorr was a friend, although not a fan, of Frank Zappa. The journalist didn’t seem to understand the musician’s approach to music, but felt that the two were kindred spirits — both committed to free speech. He delivered Zappa’s eulogy on NPR after his death in 1993.